Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar is a leading full-service family sports bar that provides gourmet takes on game-day favorites. The growing restaurant brand is looking to expand its franchised concept across the United States, and is looking to open 20 locations in 2019.
In this Q&A, Brandon Landry, founder of Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar, reflected on the brand’s milestones as well as what customers and franchisees can look forward to in the future.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Brandon, you have a really fascinating story for how Walk-On’s was founded. Could you share it with our readers?
Brandon Landry (BL): Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar began as an idea while living out the collegiate sports dream as a walk-on basketball player for Louisiana State University (LSU). I had the privilege to visit some of the best restaurants and sports bars around the country. Flying back from a road trip to the University of Tennessee, the first sketch for a sports-center restaurant was drawn on the back of a napkin.
I wanted to combine the best elements of the experiences in other cities and add in a personal touch as a walk on. This sketch would become the blueprint for a class business project, and while the project got a C, this blueprint would shape the concept for a restaurant business with now over 25 locations opened and operating all across the United States with over 100 in various stages of development.
FC: How has the Walk-On’s brand evolved over the last 15 years – from its founding to where it is today?
BL: Over the years, Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar has grown up from its humble beginnings as a napkin sketch. We have become known for serving up a game-day experience in a fun, welcoming family-friendly atmosphere. Our culinary team serves up mouthwatering southern dishes from scratch every day. This dedication to excellent food in a great atmosphere has generated a national fan base and award-winning recognition, such as ESPN naming Walk-On’s the #1 Sports Bar in America.
One of the most significant moments in our history took place in 2015 when we began expanding across the United States. As we focused on franchise development, NFL All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees expressed excitement toward our brand and asked if he could join the team as a co-owner. Brees’ enthusiasm and business-minded perspective has been an incredible addition for the Walk-On’s team.
The winning combination of leadership, food focus, family-friendly, great service in a game-day atmosphere helped us get to where we are today – 25 locations open, on track to open 20 in 2019 and over 100 in development.
FC: How does Walk-On’s offer support to new franchise partners?
BL: Since becoming a franchise brand, Walk-On’s has built a culture of constant learning, something that is vital to our growth. When a new franchisee joins our brand, their store operators go through a rigorous training program over eight weeks.
This training ends with our very own Walk-On’s University Program at our headquarters in Baton Rouge. Not only does Walk-On’s University provide store operators with an understanding of managing a business and world-class kitchen, but it also provides them with a deep appreciation of Louisiana culture and what inspires our menu.
Providing a boating trip along the bayou that ends with a night of camping and Cajun cooking, the Walk-On’s University Program provides an education on what comradery and southern hospitality are truly all about; a spirit injected into each Walk-On’s.
This program has led our franchisees toward success both personally and monetarily. Currently, the average unit volume across the system is $5.4 million, with 70 percent of sales coming from food. For a sports bar, this is unheard of, which is why we are different. This goes back to the idea that being passionate about your craft and setting high standards leads to a loyal and enthusiastic customer base.
FC: Walk-On’s was the presenting sponsor for this year’s Independence Bowl in Shreveport. Could you talk about how that partnership has benefited the Walk-On’s brand?
BL: For the second consecutive year, Walk-On’s was the title sponsor of the Independence Bowl hosted in Shreveport, LA. Through this sponsorship, Walk-On’s was able to be a part of one of the most exciting events in college football while also engaging and giving back to its community.
This year we were able to partner with world-renowned Louisiana Cajun and Creole chef, John Folse, to set the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title for the largest pot of gumbo in the name of charity. Preparing more than 6,500 pounds of gumbo, we were able to serve thousands of game-day goers while benefiting the Fisher House Foundation, a non-profit organization providing “a home away from home” for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and VA medical centers.
The Independence Bowl is a great way to bring the community together, and we look forward to continue participating in large scale events in the coming years. After all, community is one of our top values.
FC: Could you describe the “Walk-On Mentality” and how it shapes your brand?
BL: The “Walk-On” mentality was something that I learned in my own time as a walk-on college basketball player, and it meant that you had a responsibility to support your team unconditionally. Walk-On players don’t partake in college athletics for a lucrative scholarship or promise of fame, they work hard because they love the game and typically must work doubly hard to prove their worth.
This mentality of being a team player no matter your position is the foundation of the Walk-On’s culture because it exemplifies who we are as a brand. From the franchisor to the line cook, everyone on our team gives it their 100 percent because they love what they do and they love who they are working with.
A nationally recognized brand like Walk-On’s is only as good as the people running it, so everyone supports one another to ensure that our customers have a winning experience at any restaurant, at any time. No one is more important than the other. Each person plays a vital role in the success of the team, or in this case the brand.
FC: What is next for Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar?
BL: Walk-On’s is expanding beyond the south and into target markets spread throughout the United States. With locations developing across 15 states, we’re excited to take our own spin of southern hospitality all across the country.